Runners, Meet the Gym
We tend to fear the unknown, and for many runners, the gym is that unknown. I equate it to looking underneath the hood of your car if you’re not a mechanic. What’s that tube for? Do I put this liquid here or in there? Similar questions can be asked when looking into a gym. What’s that machine for? What can I do with this barbell? And will it make me a better runner, or screw up my week?
With a little education and instruction, we can familiarize ourselves with the gym so we can be less fearful and more confident.
Strength and power training for running involves lifting weights and performing variations of jumping exercises to improve overall strength and power and to correct for any muscular imbalances. One of the proposed mechanisms for better running performance is an improved “running economy,” or the energy used to run at a particular pace. Through strength and power training, the lower limb muscles and tendons actually become stiffer – and no, not in a negative way.
When your foot makes contact with the ground during the running stride, elastic energy is stored in your lower limb’s muscles, tendons and ligaments. A portion of this stored energy can be used during the later phase of the running stride, which limits the muscle energy expenditure required for toe off. Referred to as the stretch-shortening cycle, this enhanced storage and utilization of energy ultimately leads to better running efficiency, morphing you from a gas-guzzling truck into a Tesla.
Strength training can also make your body more resilient to the pounding and demands of endurance running, allowing you to train for more consecutive months without interruption from injury. This means better development of your cardiovascular system, which should translate to better race-day performance.